Austin A35 in 2005
Austin A35 in 2005.

I thought I best take a disposable car so if I have a big accident I can just climb out and join the crowd.

1992 Getting the Austin A35

Alastair decides he needs a car with real character to compete in a rally in Central America.

I was going to do a rally in ’92 that started in El Salvador and went to Honduras, Guatemala and around Central America; a circle that took us through most countries twice. It was just after the civil war had finished in Panama and this was the first international event that had taken place. I was invited to go and friends of mine were taking their flash Porsches, Jaguars, and another friend of mine was taking their Aston Martin. I thought: ‘Well I don’t want to take a flash car because the guy organising can’t possibly have insurance in these countries at this time.’ The country had just come out of a civil war and it was still total chaos. I thought I best take a disposable car so if I have a big accident I can just climb out and join the crowd.

I wanted to take a red-hot Morris Minor and I searched around for one because this rally had no rules. Rallies vary a lot in their rules: in some rallies the car has to be identical in every way to the way it was made when it came off the production line, and in others you can come with a V-12 engine in your Morris Minor and they don’t care as long as you pay the money: they don’t mind what you’re driving as long as it looks old.

During my search for the Morris Minor I stumbled across an Austin A35, which had already got the roll-cage and brake conversion and a bigger engine. It was already rally prepared and I thought: ‘Oh fantastic,’ and fell in love with it immediately. I drove it round the block for quarter of a mile and said: ‘Yeah, that will do nicely!’ and gave the man the money.

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